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Happy times here again?

August 23, 2013

Dear Artist,

On questions of economics, painters are seldom consulted. Curiously, my inbox has been bleeding queries like, "Why am I so poor?" "Do I need to worry about my galleries going broke? And, "Are happy times here again?"

With about twenty fine Canadian galleries and agents handling my work, I often get reports straight from the zebra's mouth. Zebras, incidentally, can change their stripes. Some of my dealers admit to continuing hard times--a common expression these days is "spotty." A few are galloping ahead of previous years. Pricey ballyhoo galleries seem to be munching again. Art fairs are the new schmooze zoos. An indicator here in Canada is the sale of Canadian art to U.S. collectors. Several years ago Canadian sales going across the border dried up to zero. Currently, some of my galleries are reporting 5% to 20% of sales to U.S. buyers.

During the recent recession, many borderline commercial galleries rolled over and croaked--leaving more green grass for the others. Except for posters, reproduction galleries went fully dodo. Many of the surviving brick-and-mortar, original-art galleries are more frisky than ever.

With bank failures, big bailouts and hammered pensions, the trust in big institutions has waned. The most significant change during the shakeout has been the number of individual artists who have turned to private and Internet sales. Like the locavore phenomenon, it's all about buying your chickens from someone you trust down the road--given that some folks need emus from time to time. Many Internet-enabled artists are now finding lush patches.

As well as individualism, a healthy and flourishing art market depends on widespread prosperity. With the return of U.S. real estate, higher employment, international cost equalization, an oil and gas boom, staying out of wars, continued debt reduction and low interest rates, the sun is breaking through. Like wild antelope, entrepreneurship is on the move. This time around, artists are seeing savvy collectors relying more on their own judgment--with lots of competition at the watering hole.

Regarding private and Internet sales, prices are still in the cellar. For the time being, this situation negatively impacts traditional galleries, undermines authority, and fades loyalties. Selling of "Painting a Day" and such for $200 is okay but it's not a career. EBay and Etsy are still garage sales. Amazon, to its credit, is pioneering the sale of paintings online with the apparent endorsement of what appear to be galleries.

In art galleries and out, my prognosis is that more original art is going to be sold over the next two decades than in the entire history of art. Stick around; there's going to be some grazing.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "The people need prosperity, pure and simple." (Lao Tzu, 6th Cent, BC)

Esoterica: My galleries report particular types of folks who are currently moving the market. They can be a pair of recent empty-nesters, often, but not always, decorating a second home. Another is your young BMW driver at the beginning of the trophy period. Still others include the lovely purists who are always there and just want to be part of the magic.





Global Art Market
by Judith R Birnberg, Sherman Oaks, CA, USA


Dealers are now traveling to art fairs from Miami to Hong Kong to Basel to S„o Paulo, but this globalization Untitled<br>mixed media by Judith R Birnberg Untitled
mixed media
of the market is easier for galleries with deep pockets - smaller ones are at a disadvantage.

From The New York Times: For Art Dealers, a New Life on the Fair Circuit



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Canadian artists with dealers in U.S.?
by Paul Paquette, Vancouver, BC, Canada


With sales of paintings down in many Canadian galleries due to a drop in US cross-border tourism I Tuscany Holiday<br>original painting by Paul Paquette Tuscany Holiday
original painting
have been mulling the idea of putting some of my work in an American gallery, say in LA or San Francisco. I am curious if you have ever tried working with galleries across the border or if you know of any problems which may arise and complicate doing this (...such as dealing with US/Canada customs).



There is 1 comment for Canadian artists with dealers in U.S.? by Paul Paquette

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Aug 28, 2013

I like your version of Tuscany! Maybe the clouds pick up the greenery. Anyway seems like another reason to get over there!


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Changing times mind boggling
by Gail Dolphin, Swansboro, NC, USA


Recently, numerous talented artists that I've come across seem to attract consistent buyers through the Untitled<br>oil painting by Gail Dolphin Untitled
oil painting
sales venues you mentioned. They have established an independent sales outlet without the 50% commission. I approached a gallery here in my local town and he didn't feel my art would fit his gallery. I've always found the gallery route such a difficult prospect and have had so many bad experiences in the past. I completely understood, but was surprised when he suggested I try the "online" sales route. He mentioned Etsy and the "Painting a Day" groups as a possible direction for me. It is all so perplexing as an artist and illustrator who came out of school in 1980. I literally trudged around with my portfolio of originals, used a phone and wrote thank you letters on my typewriter. These changing times and Facebook have created these sales and advertising outlets that are mind boggling. Beats being a part-time bank teller!



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Good luck!
by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic


Wow!!!! You are upbeat. Good luck to those who hold out. I am closing my studio and selling tools. Homage to Pollack<br>wild oak bowl by Norman Ridenour Homage to Pollack
wild oak bowl
I cannot cover overhead and fairs are too physically exhausting and have sunk to not even covering their own costs. E-sales are nil. I would never buy anything requiring an aesthetic judgement online. You are right, Etsy is the home of cute, kitsch and trinkets except for clothing.



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A new renaissance in the arts
by Georgeana Ireland, Irvine, CA, USA


Indeed, finally we could be in a time of a new renaissance in the arts. The recession seems to be over Fluere - detail<br>oil painting by Georgeana Ireland Fluere - detail
oil painting
and people are buying art again. Not only is being an artist a "Real Job" but actually a good job to have. Here's to the next 20 years of art sales.



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Positive outlook
by Robert Lynch, Coarsegold, CA, USA


Yes, this economy has the art world in desperate and serious times. The positive outlook is to understand the positive results when we pick up. I'm not an artist but appreciate the artists and art and I know that things will pick up for them. Your letter offers positive outlook for some very discouraged artists.



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Numbers under the numbers
by Claudia Roulier, Idledale, CO, USA


I would be cautious and maybe not celebrate too soon about the U.S. economy; the numbers under the numbers Fox<br>original painting by Claudia Roulier Fox
original painting
tell a chilling story. Although I'm selling, it is slower and interestingly it's the pricier work that is selling. My bread and butter pieces have slowed way down. Those early entries into art collecting world have dried up because all their discretionary income has been sucked up.



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Improvement in U.S.?
by Jan Ross, Kennesaw, GA, USA


I must respectfully disagree with your comments about things improving in the U.S. The unemployment rate Dressed to dance<br>watercolour painting by Jan Ross Dressed to dance
watercolour painting
is much higher than the press reports, due to the fact that many people have given up hope of finding jobs. Many people are 'under employed,' that is, they took whatever kind of job they could get for some income; previously high paid executives working at home improvement stores and, ironically, the U.S. government pays more welfare than some people can make working, so they're living 'off the dole.' Young graduates from universities cannot find work and employees over the age of 50, fa-gettaboutit! The uncertainty about medical care/expenses is great for employers who aren't hiring as many new employees as they used to, and citizens are taking a wait-and-see attitude about spending for that reason, also.

The housing market where I live was so overbuilt during the previous decade that new houses are selling for half their original asking price, and previously-lived-in homes are struggling to compete. Foreclosures and 'short sales' abound. Many of the contractors working in home construction have become 'handymen' just for work. Aside from that, given the debacle created by the government, permitting people to purchase homes with no down payment or credit checks in the past, the requirements for a buyer to purchase a home/obtain a mortgage are more strict than they have been in years.

People have recognized they are able to decorate their walls with prints and photographs for much less than originals.

Consequently, people are holding on to their funds, not spending as much for 'luxury' items, which art is considered to be. My observation is that small pieces are selling in shops and galleries, not those over $1000, at least in areas most visited by 'the average Joe'.



There are 2 comments for Improvement in U.S.? by Jan Ross

From: Sherry Purvis -- Aug 27, 2013

Well said Jan. If we live under the main stream media's idea that all is well, I just don't see it. Galleries and artists for that matter cannot prosper as long as we see everything we need or use just to live going up in price.

From: US Anonymous -- Aug 27, 2013

That is not universally true in all states in every demographic. Some states are doing quite well, while others are experiencing comparative near boom economies; partially due to oil and gas exploration and its positive ripple into other industries. The unemployed I knew five years ago all have well paying jobs today. A couple of those are in the arts.


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Derivative work
by Megan Moore, Minneapolis, MN, USA


I would be so happy to read your thoughts on critics' use of the word, "derivative", in response to a Shelby<br>oil painting by Megan Moore Shelby
oil painting
painting. Is "derivative" really just code for "sentimental" or "schmaltzy"?

(RG note) Thanks, Megan. Derivative means "coming from another source; not original." Generally it's a pejorative word meaning copied from an extant movement or copied from the work of a specific artist. Derivative is often used by overeducated art critics to try to make the artists they are reviewing feel small, weak and unimportant.



There are 4 comments for Derivative work by Megan Moore

From: Rick Rotante -- Aug 26, 2013

Megan- Don't put too much stock into what is said about dirivative. Most all work can be said to be derivative of something or someone else. The important thing is to be true to youself no matter in what style or genre you choose to piant. By the way, Shelby is terrific

From: Michael McDevitt -- Aug 26, 2013

I agree with Robert. More than a couple millennia ago, Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun." All great work is derivative of some prior effort. Read great books; copy great art; listen to great music. And if there still time, learn how to shoot a six rail bank shot, too.

From: Jackie Knott -- Aug 27, 2013

If this is the piece your critic was referencing he had a bad day or ran out of original commentary himself. Great portrait.

From: Anonymous -- Aug 27, 2013

In my school days, where we learned to paint on the walls of our caves, the worst thing that could be said was that a work was "decorative." In those days there was little from which to derive our images.


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Artists' websites
by Linda Vorderer, Oak Lawn, IL, USA


I am looking for suggestions to build my first artist website. What are the top hosts you would recommend? Who do you use? I'd like your opinion on this. Thanks.

(RG note) Thanks, Linda. The host you choose might depend on your geographical area. For designing and building a site, many of our subscribers have used my friend Leah Markham, partner of painter Jerry Markham. To build a low-cost website, you can either buy her online kit (for $100) and do it yourself, or get her and her team to build it for you. She's a smart cookie and is familiar with our needs. Her services are mentioned here.



There are 3 comments for Artists' websites by Linda Vorderer

From: Mishcka -- Aug 27, 2013

I am not computer savvy to say the least and I built a website I like with Intuit/Homestead. There is very good tech assistance. You get the first month free. Mine is five pages which is plenty for now and costs less than $10 a month. Check it out: www.MishCka.com
Last year I tried SquareSpace - it took me months and I gave up.

From: Sally Chupick -- Aug 27, 2013

I like the Fine Art Studio Online websites for artists, and have been using one for a number of years...easy to use templates, first 60 days is free trial period, fabulous customer support team to reach by phone or email, there are a few different levels for rates depending on what you get, I pay $28/month but a business expense. I like how they offer updated templates often if you want to try them. www.sallychupick.com

From: Jackie Knott -- Aug 27, 2013

Look at the member's sites from this forum and find several you like, and who built theirs. The host/webmaster will be noted somewhere at the base of the screen.


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Faye Castle workshops Landscape Sketching on Whidbey Island.   <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Faye Castle workshops
Landscape Sketching on Whidbey Island.

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Julie Houck, HI, USA



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Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Happy times here again?...

From: Mike Barr -- Aug 22, 2013

Robert - 99% of artists would be very happy to sell a painting every day at $200 and with a few other sales to go with it, that would make most of us happy. Specially if the $200 painting took about an hour to paint. In reality only a handful of artists sell constistently every day - I can almost name them all!

From: Marvin Humphrey -- Aug 22, 2013

Lao Tzu was a very wise man, indeed. Dedicated painters will always paint, no matter the circumstances. There will always be enthusiastic art aficionados. A sputtering economy negatively affects 99% of everyone. Buyers have less to spend; sellers generally have to adjust accordingly.

From: Scott Kahn -- Aug 22, 2013

Perhaps there are signs of improvement in the economy but I still think the vast majority of bricks and mortar galleries are struggling, with the exception of blue chip galleries representing blue chip artists. At that level, and at auction, money and art is being exchanged by the very wealthy. But for most artists, I think the economy is hurting them badly. Artists are turning more and more to the internet. Prices are still low, but I think this will change as collectors age, because they will be more savvy and confident in purchasing just about anything online. Older collectors, as they die off and stop buying, from bricks and mortar galleries, will eventually be replaced with a younger breed of collector. Artists have to rise to this challenge. They need to develop skills using the internet; they have to start thinking about the internet in the same way they think of bricks and mortar galleries. And they have to present their work accordingly. Just posting a photo of a painting is not going to be enough. In the meantime, most artists are struggling.

From: Olivia Alexander -- Aug 22, 2013

I would love to be represented by galleries but here in Australia it is getting impossible to find a gallery that will take on an artist that isn't already well establish with high prices. All the ones I have approached so far are either closing their doors after years in the business or will only offer group and solo shows with a price tag that most of us are struggling to afford. But no representation.
This has forced me onto the Internet and to learn and undertake everything I can about marketing and sales!
Several artists I know personally, who have earnt a good income for years from sales of their art, have now quit and gone back to the work force.
I'm not sure that prices have much to do with selling. I see some artworks online selling both at the very low and very high end of the price spectrum.
I just intend to keep going and still paint because I love it. I'm currently helping to administrate a local open studio trail in an effort to assist local artists to get more exposure and hopefully sales.
These are very challenging tomes for most artists; certainly the ones that I know.
Cheers
Olivia Alexander

From: Cynthia Crane -- Aug 23, 2013

I've been a working artist and crafter of various mediums, and in varying capacities, since the mid '80s. There has always been some type of obstacle to overcome in this industry. If its not the economy, it will be something else. In the 90s it was the increased number of art shows (read: competition).

We make our choices as to how, or even whether, we adjust our marketing strategies to maintain some degree of success. Some 10 yrs ago while discussing my art marketing strategy a friend said to me - "Local shows and galleries are fine, but the internet reaches the WORLD."

Whereas its not considered by most to be a marketplace for the "serious" collector, Etsy has been my chosen venue for the present. I should probably be offended that Robert would refer to Etsy as a "garage sale", but I have to admit that to some degree he is correct. However, there are a select few artists represented there, extremely TALENTED artists, who are very successful - financially at any rate.

I realize that success to some may not have anything to do with finances. We all have our own perspective and standards. What is appropriate for one may not be for another.

Diversification is key. I recently moved from a large city on the east coast (USA) that has a highly-rated art university and huge art community, to a very small town with a small but growing art community. Consequently, I have had to diversity and to adjust.

In addition to my Etsy shop, I'll be participating in my first studio tour this fall and my art has already been selling in a local gallery. So, Olivia from Australia, you are definitely on the right track! Best of luck to you in your efforts to get that studio tour off the ground!
http://www.TheCranesNest.com

From: Mary Bullock -- Aug 23, 2013

Oh, my goodness, Robert, I don't think I have ever read a more offensive email from you. I have been a subscriber of yours for years and love your work - but you managed to say something offensive about almost everything with this post.

From: ReneW -- Aug 23, 2013

In economies where people are having a difficult time making ends meet, discretionary spending is practically non-existent. With that said, the poor don't buy art, the middle income group look for cheap sofa art and the upper middle class may purchase art from established artists. The wealthy can afford to buy any art they like without batting an eye. There will always be a market for the Masters and well established contemporary artists. For the rest of us who want to make a living selling our art we have to establish our credentials. Win national competitions, put on four day workshops, live in or near a big city where a lot of people can see your work, self promote your work, etc. you have to be in demand in order to succeed in the art world.

From: Jackie Knott -- Aug 23, 2013

Full time self supported artists must sell their work. "The market" is the great overwhelming specter that hangs over them.
I've mentioned before that a day job (or other income) is not a bad thing for an artist. If you're in a situation the need to sell takes a back seat to creating the best work you can, eventually the art will triumph. Sure, the day job and life in general can drain you - been there. But you will find out how much you love your art if you can still find the time and will to do it.
A few observations:
I approached a gallery in July who told me they reviewed thirty artists' work every ninety days as policy. They signed none, because they didn't have the room. The funny part? She ended our discussion saying, "It doesn't matter how wonderful you are. We've only taken on two new artists in a year. That's our quota." Too many galleries state emphatically on their websites they are not accepting any new artists, so good luck with that.
The only thing I got out of Etsy was scam proposals.
Ebay is an impossible herd, plus you must also deal with the evil PayPal nonsense.
I know one artist who visited her gallery to find her work moved to the back hallway.
Galleries promote higher ticket artists because they make more and have little incentive to push an emerging one.
Many worthy artists have turned to the Internet as a viable option when other doors were slammed shut.
Art fairs, booths at trade shows, etc., demand a high investment in money and time with little return.
So, we're back to the day job. I worked hard in my earlier years to get me "here." I sell enough for validation but not a living, and I'm okay with that. That frees me to concentrate on what matters, and that is to be a better artist. And it is quite liberating.

From: Paula Green -- Aug 23, 2013

Undermines whose authority?

From: Peter Kiidumae -- Aug 23, 2013

Funny how some people find straight, plain truth and reality "offensive". Had to read your letter a second time to find the offensive parts and couldn't find any.

From: AlbertaBound -- Aug 23, 2013

Etsy is far from a Garage Sale. You should open a shop and see for yourself. Regrettably however, not only will you need artistic ability you are also going to have to have some knowledge about selling online.

You speak of your "target audience" being the young BMW owner who is looking for a trophy purchase. How insulting to your customers. With respect to selling your art let me remind you that it is often your peers, through word-of-mouth who promote and help sell your art. Insulting an etsian is a very bad thing - just go visit their forum board and you'll see a topic about your slander.

I know of several talented Canadians who sell on Etsy. Considering many purchases are being made online nowadays, you should perhaps reconsider your "target audience".

good luck to you.

From: Robin -- Aug 23, 2013

I am glad that you are seeing signs of recovery - I wish I was. In fact, my sales have dried up this year. Its scary. It has made me wonder if art sales are ever going to recover. There are so many artists trying to make a career of it now - and so many outlets for them that I think prices and individual sales may continue to be low. I worry about the new collectors too. Is there a golden age for buying art? I'm in my mid 40s and my friends are far more interested in the latest tech toys than in collecting or even buying a single piece of original art. Prints and giclees are available at every big box store and used simply as decoration to match the furniture. Who is educating the new collectors? I think galleries have been those to educate traditionally, but I think younger people and those on budgets are disinclined to go into galleries. To many, they equate galleries as snobby, elitist, or just too expensive. I think galleries (and artists) need to really consider new ways to market. Using the internet as well as traditional shows, but they need to shake it up. Sitting and waiting for a buyer to walk in just won't cut it. I love Amazon's idea... teaming with galleries to market original art at honest prices to a large audience. We shall see how it works out.
I think many artists ARE doing a huge disservice to themselves and others by selling so low. The "daily painting" you mention was fun for awhile, but that market is glutted and its created buyers who want cheap art - but it hasn't created collectors. Artists have dropped their prices to make sales - and yes, we need to eat, but we also have to promote our industry. Original art is relevant, important and artists deserve support.

From: Bill -- Aug 23, 2013

What's insulting in "BMW", "young" and "trophy"? Most of us will go for each of those! It's hilarious to read those anonymous threats and sales advises to Bob! Wise ones learn about selling from those who sell wellÖ

From: Rebecca -- Aug 23, 2013

I don't recall seeing more feisty comments here! I think the 'garage sale' epithet was bit low; perhaps a better analogy would be 'elementary school' sales on Etsy, for beginners, who might graduate to restaurants or other alternative venues in high school or college, and as the work and experiences improves, move on to a Masters in art shows or Ph.D. in gallery sales. Just like in education, desire, motivation, and hard work winnow the field as it progresses. Obviously touched a nerve here, though - several, apparently. Trophy hunters are always welcome in my studio - a buyer is a buyer and it's not my role to judge.

From: Penny -- Aug 23, 2013

It's hard to not feel slighted by this post and some of the comments. I sell my work on etsy, because it is an open door. Not all of us can find a gallery willing to take on new artists, or can afford the rising cost and uncertain outcome of participating in art fairs. It's a lot of work to learn the ropes of selling online, and takes patience and faith in yourself as sales slowly grow over time. Setting prices is up to the artist, but low prices are certainly common because buyers are generally not wealthy collectors. But they can and do appreciate original art: affordable art that is not mass-reproduced and sold in big box stores, art that speaks to their individual interests and appreciation of style or beauty. If all this makes me a garage-sale artist, or an 'elementary school' seller, so be it, but I see no shame in having found an open door to the art world when other avenues are so firmly shut, or in providing original art to someone living on a teacher's or office admin's salary. Perhaps it's just too easy to look down on others when you have reached the heights of gallery success, and see hopeful artists with our little online shops as just a nuisance that interferes with gallery sales of established "real" artists to those savvy collectors.

From: Paige Paterson -- Aug 24, 2013

Many people have become quite insulted by your suggestion that Etsy is no more than a "garage sale". Many people actually make their entire income off of the website and live tidily. Also, a garage sale, by most people's definition, is where one sells old posessions they no longer want or have a use for. On Etsy, people strive to cultivate quality vintage materials as well as lovingly handcrafted items. This is far from the image of selling your old junk to your neighbours.
If I were to use an term to describe Etsy, I'd have to call it a community. Etsy is a communal ground where artists of all mediums, from crafters to seamstresses to painters to collectors, can gather for support, learn things from one another, and share their work and findings. There are many paintings on Etsy that climb far higher than $200 or even $500, so I would kindly suggest, Mr. Genn, that you watch where you're walking before putting your foot in your mouth.

From: Valerie Norberry VanOrden -- Aug 24, 2013

Yes, I do see sales improving a little. House portraits aren't as popular as they once were, I think because people are re-prioritizing or because they are moving to condos in droves.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki -- Aug 24, 2013

Thank you for good information about the art market. Itís always great to read about that, but I am not sure how much it helps. I canít shake the feeling that most of us artists come from the great unwashed masses with naive and uninformed ideas about who and why buys art. We discuss this and listen to advices from the similar kind of people as we are, develop theories and strategies, sometimes we get a piece of the pie, but fundamentally we donít get it. In my view, the world of the art connoisseur is in another dimension and I am not privy to it. I do try, I collect some art here and there when I can afford it, but I just simply donít have the passion for it. I canít fathom the drive that some people get to create those amazing collections that get passed to future generations, and sometimes even form entire museums. There are famous collectors who started doing this with very limited budgets, so I donít think itís just about wealth. This just isnít in my DNA, but I know people who have this and I am really hoping that I will always be able to work with someone like that. But, the great news is that we make art, and for me that is the most privileged position in this story. Itís a privilege that often doesnít make for bread and butter, but thatís hardly a news. I suspect that artists of the future will be able to make good art a bit faster than artists of the past, simply due to the conveniences of ready available training, materials and logistics. This will enable them to dedicate part of their time to earning living in some other way. I wonder if a full time breed of artists will survive the natural selection process.

From: Karla Pearce -- Aug 24, 2013

I never much liked dealing with art galleries, so I opened my own and have never looked back. I highly recommend it, but you must really believe in your self in order to make it happen.

Fortune favors the bold.

From: Sharlene Sieloff -- Aug 24, 2013

I am so sorry to see the comments on Etsys forum about your referring to Etsy as "garage sale." I have enjoyed your letters for many years and found it to be a highlight in my week. Thanks for that.

People should understand that you may be comparing low priced art to what fine artist like yourself can demand. I show my pottery and paintings on Etsy and I personally am not offended.

From: Suzanna Hunter -- Aug 24, 2013

$200. A day is ok????? Many of us are living on very much less than that, with spouses and houses. You did come from a very privileged generation in a country with a nice health care system. You have no idea how many of the folks who enjoy your letter are getting by down here.

From: Kate Beetle -- Aug 24, 2013

Oh dear. I read the article with interest, had no time to comment, but naively went about my business at one of my two part-time jobs getting excited about the possibilities. Twenty good years of sales coming up? Woo-hoo!

All I've been able to think about lately is what would it take for me to be able to eliminate most of the hours I spend working other people's timetables, doing work that is utterly noncreative, and that doesn't pay me enough to get anywhere; and instead get paid to do what I seem to be best at?

Of course there's the internal battle. There are beautiful sunflowers out now; plums, peaches, gardens full of produce and flowers, and OMG I don't know how to set it up, and I'm a slow painter, and I don't have galleries and the cats and I will starve and lose the house and WHO DO I THINK I AM..........

And then I think, Oh shut up and paint. Photograph it, frame it, put it out someplace. Repeat as many times as necessary.

From: Kathy Ostman-Magnusen -- Aug 26, 2013

Yup, I agree. I am not sure what was so offensive. I'm not offended anyway. :)

From: Jamie Schneider -- Aug 26, 2013

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and perspective with us. I'm so happy things are going well with you. I have been using Daily Paintworks and let me tell you, a $200 sale would be a windfall! I like the sense of community that it offers, but do have the sense that I probably will never launch a career this way. It hasn't paid for itself yet. But, I do really like the idea of online galleries and selling my artwork myself.

So my question to you is this: what would you consider to be reputable online galleries? Also, how would you recommend getting started with your career in the first place?

From: Marsha Hamby Savage -- Aug 27, 2013

Robert I have enjoyed your letters for many years. Some are fantastic and some seem a little tongue-in-cheek! This one showed how a wonderful artist commanding high prices for his work can no longer understand the feeling of us down in the trenches. And my trench was a wonderful selling trench a few years ago. It has dried up ... this year is the worst ever.

I have been and am still in a gallery (and it is a very good gallery in our area). There were about four at a time previously in my State, and one across the Country that was wonderful. But over the last few years, five previous galleries have closed due to the hard times. I can relate to those above that said the comments are "we are not taking on any new artists" or "we only take two per year."

My work has won awards, been accepted into International and National shows, been to France, Ireland and New York... to mention some. I have been in magazines...so ... what do I do? I keep painting, providing work for my one gallery and a wonderful art association. I am setting up ways to sell on-line ... Etsy, Daily Paintworks, Facebook, Pinterest, Fineartamerica. Now, do I feel some work is being sold bargain basement? Yes. But, those of us not able to command thousands, heck even hundreds at this time, must figure out a way to continue to purchase art supplies and create. Another job? Not at this time in my life... and not to mention the inability to even find jobs.

Robert, I enjoy your letters, but I think this one you actually showed how privileged you are and can't equate to the middle or lower level artists trying to keep it together.

From: Doug Mays -- Aug 27, 2013

And so it appears that art is created not for the enjoyment of the artist and the viewers but rather for the pursuit of the almighty buck. Could be why so much art out there lacks passion and refinement.

From: anon -- Aug 27, 2013

As someone who reads a great deal of economic and financial info I can assure you the economy is not in recovery. You can expect more of what we now have, inflation, rising prices and a dwindling middle class. This will pass but you must understand it will not pass quickly. Best of luck to all of you.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Aug 27, 2013

In my day, when we learned to paint on the walls of our caves, the worst thing to say about a work, was that it was "decorative." In those days there were scant examples of work we could derive inspiration from.

From: Suzette Fram -- Aug 27, 2013

Marsha Hamby Savage, thank you for putting this so succinctly:
This one (letter) showed how a wonderful artist commanding high prices for his work can no longer understand the feeling of us down in the trenches. I've long felt that Robert has achieved a level of success (and good for him by the way) and has arrived at a place where he no longer understands or sees what the reality is for upcoming painters today.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage -- Aug 28, 2013

Thank you Suzette... and I feel the same as you. I am glad he has done well. I cheer for those that are making it. But, I fear he has lost the understanding he might have once had about how it feels to be trying to make it! It is a very fine line to walk, when talking about one's own success, and not sound like you are in some ways bragging.

I wish Robert much continued success. But, I no longer hurry to read his letters like I once did.

From: David -- Aug 28, 2013

As a recent subscriber to Robert's newsletter I have no context to judge this post in relation to previous ones, however as a stand alone post I see nothing offensive or off-putting. For any professional working in a developed economy, $200 a day is an OK wage, but that's about all. I'm an artist and I consider myself to be good. It's not my profession though. I can't earn enough because I'm not able to sell at the prices I want let alone need. It takes me around 100 hours to produce a painting and for that I want to earn at least £3000 (I'm in the UK); and why shouldn't I? Many professionals in the UK earn £30 an hour minimum and that is a reasonable aspiration. To earn at that level as an artist I need to create a market for my work amongst those who have the desire and money to pay. That market does exist and there are artists selling into it.

I don't see paintings sell on eBay or Etsy for anything near what I want as recompense for my work - I think that is all the post is pointing out - these places will never present our work to buyers who can and do pay realistic prices our hard work.

I choose not to compete in the market where there are tens of thousands of artists all trying to extract money from people who, on the whole, do not have the financial resource to pay (and/or appreciation of art) and therefore have to be persuaded to part with even the smallest amounts. I may sound 'snobbish' but it is a personal career choice, and I think it healthy and does our profession no harm to have someone like Robert pointing out that we should aspire to earn at least an average living wage.

All things said, on the whole, we all choose to be artists in full knowledge of the financial challenges. Some artists are content to earn a relatively low wage because it allows them to follow their passion. I am not in that category; I wish I was because I am passionate about my art despite how this may read. Many artists though are forced to sell low because they need to eat and pay the rent, and that is all the market will pay.

My aspiration is to die with a paintbrush and palette in my hand and not a keyboard and mouse. There will come a time when my profession will change from software programmer to artist. I will paint full time but I won't sell a painting unless I get what I want for it. Therefore, I may end up with a lot of unsold paintings because I won't feed a market that can't properly reward me. Then again, that may be one element of what is required to get oneself noticed.

From: Carlos Romero -- Aug 29, 2013

By and large, as David says above, most who try to buy online are bottom feeders. The exception is when they know you, or know of your reputation. You don't get a positive reputation on eBay, etc.

From: Jonathan Gao -- Aug 29, 2013

One of the main problems is that most artists think they are "pretty good" and while some of them are, many are not because they lack the discriminating eye to really introduce quality into their surfaces. These people look at work that is similar to theirs and only a bit better, and decide they too can go to market. The online venues await them. And there are buyers who lack the eye too.

From: Diane M -- Aug 29, 2013

Well expressed comments from David, UK software programmer. Why aim low?
I would rather purchase a "great" piece of art which may only be 3" X 3" for $200 than a much larger "so-so" piece of art for the same price. Pride of ownership is also important.

From: Rick Rotante -- Aug 29, 2013

Frankly, I believe Fine Art in the traditional sense (for those who ask what is traditional, look to Michelangelo, Rubens, Sargent, Sorolla, Mancini, et al) is gasping its last breath or nearly dead on arrival. True fine art made with traditional techniques and methods with the idea of uplifting an audience has seen its day. Nowadays, newbie painting is done on iPods, iPads, Kindles and such with fingers while a computer makes all the adjustments. They are not creating traditional art. Sadly, for those who have spent years learning to paint, this is the future. When the last baby boomer disappears, there will be no one of the current generation, learned, skill, or interested in how to do it "the old fashioned wayĒ. And by that I mean with skill, and more importantly integrity.
There are very skilled artists working today, some of whom I know personally, that can't get arrested because they paint using traditional/modern methods. Their work rivals the masters and they get no public notice or gallery representation. It has become ALL about the money, the art created is secondary or worse just a commodity. Unfortunately, for me and the hundreds of others who refuse to come into the "modern" world. we will continue to work in obscurity, while creating art the world may never see. I don't care what is popular and "in" and selling, art isn't made in 37 strokes, and artists are not made in four years with an art degree.






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Last modified: Jul, 31, 2014