Category Archives: How To Sell Your Artwork

The Story Is Sometimes The Most Important Element

Spent last night in Clearfield, PA.

Small, lively Appalachian town on a river just about 3 miles past the summit (Highest point east of the Mississippi) on Interstate 80.

We drove around town and visited a few shops, including the local Wal-Mart. I decided to check out the nursery. I wanted to see if they had Red Bud Trees and how far north they would grow. That’s how I met Deb. This nursery manager was a proud riot. Very proud of ‘her’ Wal-Mart. Been working there since it opened just over 17 years ago. It was the first “Super” Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania and she’s worked in most departments.

I learned more about Wal-Mart in ten minutes from her than anywhere else or with anyone else at all……

She told me her stories……

And through her stories, I learned about her life, her love for Wal-Mart and that she was an artist that painted rocks.

I own one of her rocks now.

Actually, it’s not just a rock or a painting on a rock I own.

I own a story. I own the right to tell anyone a 20-minute story about the artist who painted the rock. And that’s why the rock sits in my curio cabinet tonight.

Now I never went into Wal-Mart to buy a rock, or even a painting…….. But she changed my mind without asking me to buy anything. She just shared and through that sharing, I wanted to own the painted rock so that Deb will be a part of my life from now on.

As artist, realize that your customers want to know your story………that’s the story behind the painting.

Sometimes, the story itself, is the only persuader you need to sell a painting.



I Want To Make Prints Of My Paintings. How?

One of our students, Marie, recently wrote and asked how to go about getting prints of her work produced. I hear this question a lot, and I’m sharing with everyone my answer to Marie.

Marie, you have many choices on how to duplicate your work.

Have a professional take a digital photograph of your artwork. If you’re a great photographer, then you can go ahead. As for me, I prefer a professional. I find that if I have ten or so paintings, I can get them to take the photo for $5.00 to $10.00 each. It’s a very quick job. All you want in return is a CD containing their digital photos. Oh yes, you want your paintings back as well.

To find a photographer, I called up several photographers, told them what I wanted. Those that were interested, I met with them, showed them my paintings and they either quoted or declined. I once had over 50 paintings shot this way and the photographer dropped the price to $5.00 each.

All subsequent sessions, he did charge me $10.00.

After you have the photo you need to find a printer.

Call the large off-set printers in your areas. Tell them that you’re an artist and you have x number of paintings in which you need prints. And the quantity of prints. The price is higher the smaller the number of prints. And modern technology is producing new equipment, albeit expensive, (that’s why I told you to call the large printers in your areas as they are generally the only one who can afford them) that produces beautiful, beautiful prints in small quantities. Some printers will charge anywhere from $10 to $40 for such a print. IT also depends upon size.

Now this is real important.

The copyright courts on several occasions have ruled that the derivative works of “prints” belong to the printer and not the artist. So you must have the print sign back to you all rights as pertains to the production and sale of such prints.

Many will argue that the courts have reversed themselves, etc….

Be smart. Get the agreement. And if the printer won’t sign the rights to you, get a new printer.

Generally, its a non-issue with printers.

Having the agreement is important for this reason. In your state, the laws may not assign the rights to the printer, but down the road, such a law could be passed and suddenly you’d be without protection. It’s not a big deal with printers, but its protection for you.

I also caution you to be conservative in the number of prints you order, and make sure of your market that there is a demand for your product before you invest a lot.

Another method I encourage is testing. Have 10 prints produced in your most popular sizes, and put them up for sale. If they sell right away produce another `10 and raise the price. Repeat until they quit selling. Then drop the price until they start selling again. That’s your market and price. And you’ll now be able to gauge a reasonable number of prints you can have made.

I still remember a 35 year old artist who was so proud of his Indian painting that he ordered 5,000 prints. That was 20 years ago and he still has a huge quantity availble for this ‘limited edition’ print.

Enjoy, hope this helps and good luck.

Student Comment

Ladyrose126 said,

Dear Darrell,
I would like to know if you know about giclee (zhee-CLAY).Giclee is an individually produced, high-resolution, high-fidelity, high tech reproduction done on a special large format printer. Giclees are produced from digital scans of existing artwork. Also, since many artists now paint only digitally, there was no “original” that can be hung on a wall. Giclees solve that problem, while creating a whole new vibrant medium for art.

Giclees can be printed on any number of media, from canvas to watercolor paper to vinyl, to transparent acetates. Giclees are superior to traditional lithography in nearly every way. The colors are brighter, last longer, and are so high-resolution that they are virtually ‘continuous tone’, rather than tiny dots. The range, or “gamut” of color for giclees is far beyond that of lithography, and details are crisper.

Since giclee printers can use media in rolls, large print sizes are available, limited only by the length and width of the roll. Billboard sizes are possible. Giclees are typically sold by the square inch or square foot.

Lithography uses tiny dots of four colors–cyan, magenta, yellow and black–to fool the eye into seeing various hues and shades. Colors are “created” by printing different size dots of these four colors.

Giclees use inkjet technology, but far more sophisticated than your desktop printer. The process employs six colors–light cyan, cyan, light magenta, magenta, yellow and black (sometimes TWO blacks)–of lightfast (fade resistant), pigmented inks and finer, more numerous, replaceable printheads resulting in a wider color gamut, and the ability to use various media to print on. The ink is sprayed onto the page, actually mixing the color on the page to create truer shades and hues.

They are priced midway between original art and regular limited edition lithographs. Limited edition litho prints are usually produced in editions of 500-1000 or more, all at once; but giclees rarely exceed 50-100 high-quality reproductions, one at a time.

Giclees were originally developed as a proofing system for traditional lithographic printing presses, but it soon became apparent that the presses were having a hard time delivering the quality and brilliant color of the giclee proofs. Giclees evolved into the new darlings of the art world. They are coveted by collectors for their fidelity and quality, and desired by galleries and artists alike because they don’t have to be produced in huge quantities with their large layout of capital and storage.

In addition, Giclees are produced directly from a digital file, (which can be remotely uploaded,) saving generations of detail-robbing negatives and printing plates used with traditional litho printing.

This can be costly. I would like to know is you know any one who dose this at a lower price?

Thank you, Barbara a. King

Darrell’s Response: Try Wayne Scheible: Flower City Printing in Rochester, New York.

What is an Artist Statement?

Molly Chance from the UK recently asked, What is an artist statement?

Basically, an artist’s statement is a written document of about 100 words that discusses your work and who you are to the viewer. This is typically done so that the viewer can better understand what you’re trying to accomplish in general and with the specific painting they’re reviewing.

Thus you get to set the stage for the viewer to evaluate your work.

What you’re trying to do is put into words the basic idea behind your painting, your series of work, or an entire body of work.

Some of the questions you may want to address include:

1. Why do you paint what you do?
2. Is there any special process you use when painting?
3. What are your favorite subject matters and why?
4. What materials is the work made from and why?
5. What does your art mean to you? 6. What elements of your process do you use that you were taught?
7. Where do you derive your subject matter from and why?

Keep your statement brief.

Write two or three paragraphs of no more than 3 sentences each. This will keep your thoughts focused and prevent you from over burdening the reader with unnecessary details. Do not use art jargon, use everyday English.

You can also write a bio that is separate from the statement. A bio is about you. A statement is about your painting.

Example of a Bio

Darrell Crow is a self-taught, professional artist, author and art instructor.

Born in Peoria, Illinois in 1949. Darrell grew up in the small towns of Vergennes and Murhysboro, IL. His love for nature was instilled at an early age. His father was a career military officer that moved frequently throughout the United States and Europe. By the time Darrell had graduated from High School in Reno, Nevada in 1966, he had attended 28 different schools. Growing up, Darrell crossed the American continent so many times he felt at home whether in the Nevada Sun, High Sierra mountains, the great plains, the Midwestern corn belt, New England, or the sun-drenched hills of California. “I enjoy the outdoors immensely and try as I might to capture its magnificence with a camera. It wasn’t until I was introduced to oil painting that I was able to truly capture the emotions I felt for our great outdoors.”

Darrell took every opportunity to study under numerous big brush artists including Bob Ross, Robert Warren, Gary Jenkins, Lynn Pittard, Barbara Pasco, Bill Blackman, Jessie Martin, and others. Darrell’s studies of the works of the Hudson Valley School of Artists like Church and Bierstadt further developed his artistic capabilities.
Picking up a paint brush for the first time at 40, Darrell quickly found friends and acquaintances persuading him to teach them his painting style. Since those early days, Darrell has taught over 3,500 classes, and today, has produced over 250 full length, 2-hour videos on how to paint landscapes, seascapes, flowers, tall ships, wildlife, people, pets and much, much more. These videos are available on his website, Darrell is also the author of The Basic Techniques of Oils and is currently working on its companion book, The Basic Techniques of Acrylics.

Darrell has built a tremendous and loyal following because of his strict attention to four basic principles.
1. Anyone can learn to paint. If one can sign their name and hold a paint brush, Darrell can teach that person to oil paint if they’re willing. Many people insist they know nothing about painting and can’t even draw stick men yet they can effortlessly sign their name. Darrell’s classes are designed specifically for those individuals who cannot paint and knowing how to sign one’s name is all of the art skills anyone required to learn this technique.
2. Clear, concise, step-by-step teaching. Darrell is adamant that anyone can learn to paint and he proves it by ensuring students know how and why to use their brushes, mix color, and apply paint to the canvas. He assumes the student knows absolutely nothing and builds up their skill sets by thoroughly explaining every step and then demonstrating the techniques..
3. Oil painting is learned behavior. In other words, talent is obtained through the learning of various techniques and mastering their applications. Darrell teaches students his techniques and through repetition, students master each of these techniques, thereby building their talents.
4. Creativity is built through experience. Darrell teaches that the longer a student studies art and the more frequent they practice, they will begin to develop their “art eye.” Darrell teaches that anyone can develop their creative ability by knowing what’s technically possible to represent the student’s idea. As each student’s technical abilities increase and they expand their experiences to a wider range of subject matters, students will learn to “see” new and creative opportunities for expressing their individuality on canvas.
Darrell has over 1,000 paintings hanging in private collections worldwide.

Example of an Artist Statement. (You can produce your own in the first person discussing what are you trying to accomplish with your painting.)

French artist, Michel Delacroix, is an acclaimed master of the naïf tradition and one of the most popular and successful artists in the world today. A self-styled “painter of dreams and of the poetic past,” Delacroix has devoted five decades to painting a city he calls “the Paris of then,” the magical place where he was born, where he spent his boyhood, and where he continues to live to this day.

Delacroix Paris is not the Paris of Today. Delacroix lived through the Nazi Occupation of Paris in World War II as a small 7-year old child, Delacroix says, “During the Occupation, when “we suddenly jumped fifty years into the past. No more cars in the streets, very few lights. Paris suddenly became very quiet, very dark, and, though people were afraid, there was a brotherhood and spirit that was very delightful.” For Delacroix was spared from grasping “the cruelties and absurdities” of war, it was instead, “the one great adventure of my live.”

And it is this Paris of by-gone years and innocent splendors that Delacroix portrays in his works. His Art is known worldwide for their graceful balance of “the earthy and the urban, the cosmic and the ordinary.” Delacroix has captivated private collectors, museums and ordinary people alike throughout the world, earning the artist both universal acclaim and numerous awards.

You may elect to have an artist statement for each type of painting (series) you introduce or for all of your work as seen above by example.

Develop your own Biography and Artist Statement.

Remember, the road to success is always under construction. As you evolve, update both your bio and your Artist Statement.

Certificate of Authenticity

When I sell my original paintings, It can increase value and often is necessary to include a Certificate of Authenticity (COA.). (Especially for collectors) This is a document that includes all the information the art buyer might want to have on hand about your artwork. It’s very comforting to know that the art seller/artist is willing to certify a statement that a painting they’ve created is an original work of art.

A COA should include

1. The Title of your painting/artwork

2. Artist Name

3. Year the Painting/artwork was created

4. Country where the artwork was created

5. Media Used

6. Size of Painting, Total height, width (Single canvas size)

7. Number of canvases,

8. That the painting is an original.

9. Statement of Authenticity

10. Signature Block (Name and date)

11. On the bottom of the COA, its always a good idea to put your logo and website address and email address. (Mailing Address/Telephone Number is now optional)

Statement: Keep it simple.

This is an example you could use.

This is to certify that the painting with the above specifications is an authentic original painting created by [your name] and sold by [Name of Seller even if its your name].

You can design your own form or you can put together a statement on letterhead.

Seven Steps To Get Started Selling Your Art

1. Decide that you want to sell your artwork!

Now, I know this sounds ridiculous on the surface but look at it a little deeper. Many artists love just creating art, they have no desire to sell what they make. Selling their work becomes unfortunately a necessary evil. Suffice to say…Supplies, tools, food and housing costs money. If you want to be a full time artist you either have to have money saved up, work another full time job or learn how to sell some of your work. Many artists look at this last alternative as something they dread doing. I hear all the time…”I want to be an artist not a salesperson!” I couldn’t agree more! But…and here is the big but…you have to learn easy methods to help you sell your art where the art basically sells itself.

2. Decide what you want to sell.

Many artists don’t have a clue what to sell. This causes them a lot of stress. They will say that their work is too time consuming and they will never recoup the cost or time involved in making the piece. If this is the case, you will need to do some research to find out what is selling and if your work has a market for it. You should not create dozens if not hundreds of pieces to find out that there is no market or interest in that particular artwork. A little research ahead of time goes along way. If you have artwork that falls into the category of being one of a kind, expensive and time intensive to produce you will also have to decide the marketability of the piece. There are easy ways to do this research ahead of time you just have to be educated in the proper steps on how to do it. Failing to do it could bankrupt you before you get started.

3. Decide where you are going to sell it.
Once again, a little research goes a long way! For example, where do you think you would do better selling Southwest (United States that is) style artwork… in Phoenix, Arizona or New York City? Now some of you reading this may say well there could be some buyers for this type of artwork in New York City. And your right… there could be some. But isn’t it easier to catch a fish where the fish are biting? In other words find the buyers for your style of artwork where they live, work or shop. You need to learn how to investigate art shows, galleries, websites and the like where your buyers visit. Not doing this crucial step will not only cause you heartache but lead to wasted opportunities. As you can see, this step builds upon the previous two. Now onto number 4!

4. Decide how much you are going to sell your work for.

Artists either do one of two things…under price their work or overprice it. Most never get it right from the get go. Trial and error seems to be the name of the game. Well, until you figure out the right prices for your work, much money or lost sales probably have slipped thru your fingers. There are several strategies to speed up this process to determine what price point will work best for your style of work. In my course I teach specific points in setting your prices from the start. I have heard that this information has created peace of mind for many people for it gives them a logical road map to follow. It also allows you latitude to know when to raise your prices and situations where you will be more profitable reducing your prices. Believe me, some of my best profitable pieces come from items that I could sell all day long for under $20. Now before you say, “I have no interest in selling for that price point…” What if I told you that these are pieces that I would normally give away and they take me less than 2 minutes of my time to make? Found money which exposes people to my more expensive pieces which I sell for thousands of dollars.

5. Set up an efficient shop and process to produce your work.

This sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? But how many of you reading this could honestly say that your workspace is productive, efficient and could handle multiple projects at once? Artists tend to get rapped up in their work and lose track of time, space, equipment, materials and everything in between. I know I’ve been there. I would go into my studio about 7:30 at night just to complete a simple part of a project I was working on. I put on some “mood music”, turn off the phones and get into the zone. The next thing I know it is 3 in the morning and I just can’t stop. I love it! But the shop can become a disaster when I get going. Cutting glass for my stained glass windows, scrap glass lying around, airbrushes and the like…things pile up quick! Setting up your shop for production helps keep you working productively. Once I tightened this area up I was spending more time creating art and less time cleaning up and organizing all the supplies and materials that I just finished using. You are probably saying to yourself, “Steve, this sounds like common sense”, and it is, but we all fall into this trap. If you are going to start selling your artwork you are going to need to learn to “tighten” up the shop. This will be the only way to be productive and profitable.

6. Organize your schedule.

This includes specific things such as: 1. Buying supplies and materials 2. Talking to prospective customers and current customers 3. Working on your art 4. Planning your marketing activities 5. Daily & monthly business activities such as taxes, bills, paying utilities, registering for artshows and the like 6. Having fun outside the studio! This step directly follows step 5 above. If you “fly by the seat of your pants” plan to be stressed and overwhelmed. Take time to write out all the tasks that you need to accomplish in a typical day, week or month and create a “to do” list. I have done this successfully for many years and have found it to be the most productive use of my time. Give it a try and watch how you multiply your accomplishments!

7. Create art & sell it!

This involves putting it all together. Just do it in a systemized fashion. The above will help you get started. Learning how to sell your artwork is really easy once you have the conceptual understanding and tools of how to do it. My advance course can easily help you do it. For the price that I am offering to you I truly don’t understand why you have not gotten at this point.

Remember, FEAR, is simple “false evidence appearing real”. The reason artists don’t like selling their work is because of fear, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of the “I told you so” from family members. This fear is false! You can prove all your critics wrong and most importantly become HAPPY! Why not live the life you want, the life you dream about, the life you deserve. Happiness should not be a hopeful goal down the road but a major component of the journey. Isn’t that what life’s about? Go for it!

Eight Tips To Quadruple Your Art Show

At a recent art show, I could not help but notice that not everyone’s day was going as well as mine! As I experienced a constant stream of people flooding into my booth and buying my artwork, my neighbors were sitting idle and waiting. Not only did I have people buzzing in and around my booth, but after they purchased my artwork, they told their friends to come to my booth and buy from me!

I had experienced too many art shows from the other side of the fence. I knew then that I needed to share my successful art show strategies with my fellow artists.

First, get rid of your director’s chair. Artists that avoid perspective customers always amaze me. You’ve spent so much time creating your art to sell. You’ve spent the time and money to exhibit at the show. Why hide? If you want to sell your work, you must interact with the public.

Put yourself out there! It’s very simple – you create additional value to your artwork when you interact with a perspective customer. Explain to them what makes your art work unique. Tell them how you came about conceiving and producing your artwork. Tell them the story, people are interested, and when they buy the piece they now own additional information about the piece to share with their friends.
It’s important to give a reason for someone to stop at your booth. Utilize a main focus piece on an easel or pedestal in order to draw interest from the crowd.

Using signage is an easy way to give someone a reason to stop at your booth. With signage, you can give suggestions for alternative uses of the artwork. For example, many of my sushi dishes sold as candle displays, soap holders, bread plates, etc.

Run a show special and use signage to promote the details. It’s important to give an added incentive to purchase something from you that day. Take one of your lower end products and create an easy way for people to purchase more of them – buy 2, get 1 free for example.
Invite people to sign up for a free drawing to win a piece of your artwork. This last step allows you to capture their name and email for future marketing purposes.

Finally, take a good look at your booth. The success of your next art show will increase when you create the successful booth. View your booth from the customer’s vantage point. Is it inviting? Does it create the “I gotta have that piece!” mindset? Attend an art show yourself. Go from booth to booth and see what draws you in to look further. See which booths the people flow to. What about those booths caused you to walk in? Keep notes, assemble that information, and apply it to your booth when you set up for your shows.

Keep your booth fresh throughout the entire show. Remember every time someone walks into your booth they are a customer meeting you for the first time and you always want to make a great first impression.

I don’t want to sell my paintings at the Flea Mkt.

Darrell, do you have any suggestions on getting more expossure when we’re trying to sell our paintings. I just don’t want to go to a flea market to try and sell my paintings. People are looking for Flea Market prices and my work is not flea market valued products. What do you suggest? Andrea.
Andrea, don’t even begin to think of selling your work at Flea Markets.
Go to places that establish you as an artist.
But first, you’ll need to sit down and think about your niche. Focus on who would buy your paintings. All battles for selling paintings are won and lost on the first day you pick your market. Successful marketing of your paintings is not so much about “What” you market or “How you market as it is about “Who” you chose to market to. If you get the “Who” right, than everything else will fall into place.?

If you don’t, not even the greatest marketing in the world will help you.

When you go about determing “Who to chose, remember some markets are hard and some are easy. I prefer easy. If given a choice between hard and easy, I’ll chose easy anyday. But just what do I mean by an ‘easy’ market?
How can you easily identify an easy market? Well, they typically have three characteristics, and once you find a market that has the following three characteristics, the easier your life will be in marketing and sales.

1. The market is easy to reach.
2. The market has a burning “need” for what you’ve got
3. The market has demonstrated through past behavior an ability and willingness to spend money on the kinds of things you plan to sell.

This is why flea markets are the ideal example for the wrong ‘Who’ for oil paintings.

1. Out of all of the attendees, how many really came to buy an oil painting.
2. Flea market is synonomous with “Cheap prices”, “bargains”, impulse buying and so forth. No ‘burning desire, no quantifiable number of people specifically within your market area,
3. Flea markets have typically demonstrated that $100 paintings are not frequently sold.
4. So the 3-point test is not passed at all by the Flea Market.

Most people make the mistake of approaching selling by creating a product that they’re sure the world will love. Or they simply hear that the Internet is a great place to make money. So they pour tons of money into developing an award winning, graphically inspired web site.
Ken McCarthy, a dear friend of mine and author of the book, System Secrets, says, “….these approaches remind me of the old expression ‘putting the cart before the horse.’ The fanciest cart on earth – the best product, the slickest web marketing campaing – won’t get you anywhere without a good market ‘horse to pull it.
In contrast, with the right horse you don’t have to worry too much about the cart. Nature will take care of itself.”
Richard Sears, founder of the Sears Catalog said, “If its the right offer to the right person at the right time, I can write it on the back of an old paper bag in crayon and it will sell.”
The most critical thing you can do is pick the right market. Not the paintings, not the website. But to whom would buy your paintings.
The best thing to do is to focus on one type of painting for that market. Do several paintings for that market with a specific theme. Write articles that go into depth about the reasons why you painted each particular painting. Share the story behind each of your paintings. Publish these articles on-line through article directories. Put them on your website and send them as press releases to traditional media as well as on-line media.
Talk to the people in your market. Find out what they like, then pull their heartstrings with your paintings.
For example, I had a student artist who loved golfing and wanted to paint his favorite golf holes. He also wanted to sell his paintings.
So he went to the club, talked to a lot of members and ended up identifying the 6 favorite holes that excited members.
He then composed paintings of each and offered them for sale. He wrote articles, and shared the stories he heard around the watering hole by golfers who’d conqured or been defeated by these golf holes. He than began painting. His paintings covered the gamut of emotions known so well by the lamenting and cheering club members. He made more money on his paintings than any student I’m aware.
My advice for you is to go back to the fundamentals and figure out WHO is your market.
Resolve to put at least half or more of your time and energy into studying specific markets and once you’ve addressed ‘Who’ is your market, than the What, How’s and all those other questions become real easy to answer.
Find the easy market …. the groups of people you can easily reach, that have a burning ‘need’ for your paintings and who have already demonstrated their willingness and ability to buy paintings. All you have to do then is present your paintings to sell to them. Back at the golf course, who were the first to line up and buy Sid’s paintings…….those who told them stories of their successes and failures.
Let me know how you do. Darrell

A simple method to pricing your artwork.

There’s not one week goes by, I’m not asked to explain how to set prices for a painting.

The better question is …….. How can I get my paintings sold?

So, I’m going to take a couple of issues and try to nail down a formulae that works……every time. Something onto which you can really hang your hat.

You see, its one thing to mechanically set a price for a painting and quite another to “sell” that painting. Just setting a great price is not enough to getting a painting sold.

There was a movie a few years ago, Field of Dreams that really became a craze. In the movie, a farmer standing smack dab in the middle of a cornfield hears some whispers that drives him to clear part of his farm land to build a baseball field. When he does, all the spirits of baseball players past get together for another game. The whispers said, “If you build it, they will come.”

Now I’ve heard that silly statement applied to just about every kind of situation imaginable. But let me end this right now….. “If you price it, they will not come.” Sorry folks, the movie was simply entertainment.

Yes, there is a very specific process you must undertake to set the right price. And then there is a very specific process you must undertake to find the right buyer.

I’ve spent over 3 decades in the marketing of high technology products. I have brought in contracts for upward to $60 million for software products. The very same formulae for marketing high technology products works equally for selling art. We must have the right products to sell to the right person at the right time for the right price to meet the right needs with the right terms and conditions. Marketing is all about getting it right.

With this said, let me explain a couple of methods to setting the right price.

First and foremost, the first rule of pricing pricing is “profit.” Know your costs, know how much money you want to make and than see if the market will bear the price. You can adjust up/down afterwards to compensate for true market conditions. The influencers include, but are not limited to your reputation, your style, quality of your craftsmanship, your location, the painting, the story within the painting, and much, much more.

#1: Hourly: Let’s say you feel your hourly rate is worth $20.00. If you take 5 hours to do a painting than you would need to charge $80.00 for labor alone. Now you need to add materials. Let’s say you paid $8.00 for a canvas, $10 for supplies including pens, pencils, tracing paper, paints, etc… Now take that number ($18.00) and multiply it by 3.5 That equals $63.00. Round up to $65.00. Now go to overhead. Do you pay any fixed amount monthly in order to have a studio or anything? Let’s say you do this on the kitchen table using no new services. So charge $5.00 for overhead. Multiply by 4. That means $20.00 for overhead. So your profitable price would be:

Labor $100.00
Materials $ 65.00
Overhead $ 20.00

Your target is to sell that painting for $185.00. All you have to do is find a buyer.

#2 Testing what the market will bear: This is finding what the maximum anyone will pay for your painting. To find this out start with the price you come up with using step #1. If people buy without hesitation, up your price for the “next” painting by $25.00, and keep going up with each “next” painting until you find a price level people will stop buying your paintings.

For Example……….

* You do the above………….$185.00 people are happy to pay.
* Add $25.00 for next……….$205.00 people still happy to pay.
* Add $25.00 for next……….$230.00 people still happy to pay.
* Add $25.00 for next……….$255.00 people still happy to pay.
* Add $25.00 for next……….$280.00 people still happy to pay.
* Add $25.00 for next……….$305.00 Nobody willing to pay.

This would mean that your price for a painting is between $280 and $305.00. Now you would start adding $5.00 for each “next” painting you do until no one’s willing to pay. Then you will have what the market will bear. For our example, let’s say $280.00 is the market price of your 5 hour paintings.

Now you really know how to price your paintings….

You’re receiving……………..$ 65.00 Materials
…………………………………$ 20.00 Overhead
…………………………………$ 195.00 Labor (Thus your new hourly rate is $40.00)

Now whenever you’re asked to do a painting and you think it will take over 5 hours, you simply multiply the additional hours by $40.00.

There are more strategies than this in the pricing of paintings, but for someone starting out, the above will help to bring together both your time/skill set value.

Next issue I’ll talk about the process to find the right buyer. We do not want to be like the hamburger stand at a vegetarian conference. So we need to understand how to go about finding the right people that will buy our paintings. We’ll answer questions like …. Who are they? Where are they? Why do you paint? How to talk to them once you find them, etc…

Now if you’re just starting to learn to oil paint, don’t worry about pricing. When I first started, I often bartered. Someone wanted a painting, I said sure, next time you’re out shopping, buy me a fan brush. Most people are willing to do this. It helps you. But after awhile, its nice to get that happy buck.

So work on your craftsmanship and when folks start asking you how much you want for a painting, try the above formulae.

Darrell interview with–Selling Art

ast week I had the privilege of being interviewed by a large organization on how to market and sell your artwork. You can listen to this 51 minute interview at the following link. Dr. Steve Popkin is the founder of the Thriving Artist and offers a wonderful course on how to go about selling your artwork. I met Steve at a recent conference and he we’ve decided to work together to help artists not only learn to paint, but help them to sell their art as well. In the interview you’ll hear my views on:

Chosing subjects
Researching your subject matter
The importance of customer service
Art Shows
The value of the artists’ name
and a whole lot more.



Setting up your own company.

Cash is King!

Finance. Money. Making the most of it.

This article is devoted to helping you receive information on money, record keeping, taxes and etc. so you can make better decisions and run your art business efficiently. Also, keep Uncle Sam happy, if you know I mean. As always, the best advise is to review this article with your accountant before making decisions.

One of the first business decision you will have to make is deciding what legal and financial business structure best fits your art business. There are four basic types of legal and financial business structures each with their own advantages, disadvantages and financial implications. They are:

a Sole Proprietorship,

a Partnership,

a Corporation

and an “S” Corporation.

A Sole Proprietorship is a business that has one owner who assumes the responsibility for all profits and debts or liabilities of the business. Sole Proprietorship’s are easy to get started, you are the boss, you get to keep all of the profits, the business income is taxed as personal income and the reporting and record keeping requirements are less stringent than any other form of business. This form of business is perhaps used by a larger audience of art instructors and smaller suppliers. It also has certain disadvantages if you’re widely successful and need to hire employees. I’m not sure how many of us face this problem, but it is generally more difficult to hold and attract high quality employees. It is much more difficult to raise investment funding (commonly referred to as Capital). The business life can not be passed on, nor will it survive the owner and the owner accepts unlimited liability.

A Partnership is a business where two or more people agree to share in the companies’ profits and losses. This may appeal to certain artists who work together consistently teaching classes or building a business. It is also easy to get started, two or more heads are better than one, more investment capital is available and the partners only pay personal income tax on the business income. The down side is that partners may disagree, the partners assume unlimited liability even for the business debts of each other and all profits must be shared.

I strongly recommend that you have a written partnership agreement that is drawn up by a competent attorney. The document should state at a minimum what each partners rights and responsibilities will be, what amount of capital funding each partner will contribute, what the percentage of ownership will be, how the profits and or losses will be distributed, how partners can join or leave the business, how disagreements will be handled and how assets will be distributed in the event the business is discontinued.

If you have a considerable business, or plan to open a retail outlet, you should consider a Corporation (also referred to as a “C” Corporation) which is a business that in the eyes of the law is considered a separate and distinct entity with the same rights as an individual person. This existence is separate from its owners and offers several specific advantages. A corporation’s liability is unlimited while the owners or stockholder’s liability is limited. This means that the owners are not personally responsible for either losses or the business debts. The ability to raise investment capital is easier because you can sell shares of stock in the company. As a separate entity, it is easier to transfer ownership by selling your stock and the company can survive the original owners because the corporate life is unlimited. The main disadvantages are taxes, start up costs, taxes, government regulation and, oh did I mention taxes.

Unfortunately corporations are subject to a variety of taxes that individuals and partnerships are not. There are annual taxes on the number of outstanding shares of stock. There is a double tax where you pay taxes on what the corporation earns and on what you earn as profits you take out of the corporation. A corporation must have a state charter and therefore the costs associated with drawing up legal documents are much greater than with a sole proprietorship or a partnership. Record keeping requirements, both federal and state, are much more complex and professional assistance is critical.

To complete your education (even though few will want to form such an organization), an S Corporation is essentially one that has elected to be treated like a partnership. The main advantage to this form of company structure is that one avoids the double taxation rule of a regular “C” corporation. Income or losses are passed through to the shareholders and taxed at the personal level. Also S Corporation shareholders are not personally liable for the debts of the corporation and therefore it limits the liability exposure to owners. S Corporations also have disadvantages. These include filing with the state for permission to operate making it more costly to establish. Shareholders are limited to no more than thirty-five of which none may be another corporation. Legally you are required to have a board of directors, annual meetings and more formal reporting making it more complex to operate and manage. And lastly, there exists restriction on the types of stock that may be issued by this form of company.

There is one other form of company structure that is recognized by the IRS called a Limited Liability Company (LLC). This relatively new structure is similar to an S Corporation except that it generally has a limited duration that is fixed and has less formal operating and reporting requirements.

The financial implications of these types of business structures all vary. The Sole Proprietorship is the least costly. The Partnership costs more because you should have legal documents covering the partnership agreement thereby incurring slightly higher legal costs. The S Corporation and LLC cost even more due to the required state filings and other legal document preparations for partnership agreements. And lastly the regular C Corporation simply costs the most due to initial state and federal filings, legal document preparation such as articles of incorporation and bylaws and the continuous reliance on accountants, lawyers and other professionals.

Financial Tip.

Before deciding the type of company you want to be or have, carefully weight the pros and cons of each type of structure. Seek out the advice of accountants, lawyers and even your local banker. Check with your local community to see if you need any local permits to operate. Depending on your type of art business and its location you may need a local occupancy permit or a seller’s permit.

If you are operating your business from your home, checking with local authorities about permits is critical. Also, a local permit to operate a business from your home will add validity to the IRS requirements of using your home for business purposes. Some states impose a minimum tax on Corporations while other do not recognize an S Corporation.

You do not need a separate taxpayer identification number (TIN) as a sole proprietorship or partnership unless you pay wages to one or more employees, but you do for each of the other forms of business. A TIN does not cost anything to get but it’s just nice to know when you need one.

Estimated typical costs to establish any of the above types of companies varies and depends on many factors. Amounts to use as general guidelines are: for a Sole Proprietorship under $100 to $200, for a Partnership from $100 to $500, for an S Corporation or LLC from $400 to $1,000 and for a regular C Corporation from $500 to $2,000.

One last tip, although not specifically financial in nature, does offer advise on where to obtain free information that I highly recommend and I am sure that you will find invaluable. There are several ways to contact the IRS for free forms and publication: by phone call 1-800-TAX-FORM, by mail at Western Area Distribution Center, Rancho Cordova, CA 95743-0001, the Central Area Distribution Center, POB 8903, Bloomington, IL 61702-8903 and the Eastern Area Distribution Center, POB 85074, Richmond, VA 23261-5074 and by computer on the World Wide Web at On the world wide web site I recommend you look at or down load publication 334 a Tax Guide for Small Business, publication 583 on Starting a Business and Keeping Records and form 1040-ES for Filing Estimated Taxes For Individuals.

Finally, I would like to leave readers with one small bit of advice. “In a small business the most important asset you should watch more closely than any other is CASH,” put more simply; in a small business, Cash is King.


Darrell Crow, Professional Artist & Instructor


Darrell Crow is fast becoming one of America’s favorite oil painting instructor. With his step-by-step instructions, anyone can learn to oil paint. Guaranteed. Get a free sample of his 2-hour comprehensive Basic Technique of Oil Painting Water video at