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Daily Paintworks: What you as an artist would like to know about selling online.

Detail of oil painting: “Perky Young Kitten,” (original painting 6×8″) Sold on DailyPaintworks.com.

I’m writing this because now and then (pretty regularly, actually) I get fellow artists asking me how I like DailyPaintworks. Daily Paintworks is a site where original artworks (usually smaller, less expensive works—maybe done “daily”) are sold. I sell my smaller works on Daily Paintworks. When I actually produce new work (sometimes I don’t because life has gotten in the way), I sell okay. I estimate that I’ve sold approximately 2/3rds (maybe a little less) of all my work posted on DailyPaintworks (I’ll call it “DPW” from now on). To me, that’s pretty good. I’m very pleased with DPW.

I’m writing this so that other artists can get the answers they want without having to personally ask. Not that I mind answering questions (I LOVE to ramble!), but I figure that a blog post will reach more people.

First, some disclaimers:

I’m ONLY speaking from my OWN experience. One size does not fit all.

I have a particular price range, style of work, and subject matter choice. This affects how I sell (in good and bad ways). One size does not fit all.

While I may update this post later on, please assume that what I write here applies to the timeframe in which it was written. (Summer 2017.) Things change over time.

Even though I’m going to ramble and give you my personal opinions, you really owe it to yourself to read DPW’s FAQs for sellers. They give you all sorts of great info and will answer many of your questions. Also look at their “Join Us!” page.

So, let’s get started with some common questions I often get:

What is this DPW? I want to sell online, is this a good place for me? 

A lot of artists who have never sold online ask me about DPW. They learn that I’m pretty active selling my artwork (online only—I rarely if ever sell locally) and want to know how it all works.

To learn more about DPW, go visit the main page, go search through the paintings, look at the auctions, look at the individual artist’s galleries, see what sells. Look at the subject matter, the most common sizes that sell, popular mediums, prices. Find an artist whose work is similar in some ways to your own, and see how often they post new work, what their prices are, how they present their work, and so forth. This is probably the most important thing you can do to get a “feel” for DPW and whether your work will fit in.

How much does it cost to be an artist there?

You pay a low monthly fee (about $13 as I write this) and that’s ALL you pay unless you sell your work through the DPW auction system. (And then, you pay a small commission only.) If you sell your work for a fixed price, you owe nobody a commission, except for if you take payments through PayPal (they take a small cut).

This is a GREAT deal, as many online galleries can take up to 50% of your painting’s price.

Can it work for me?

I think DPW is a great place to get started selling. You don’t need to already have a great “following.” (I sure didn’t.) You don’t need to be “famous.” (I sure wasn’t, and still am not!) What works best, in my opinion, is that you have an online presence (either a website, Facebook page, a blog with a site like Blogger, or more than one of these).

What also works best is to at least semi-regularly produce art. You can’t just dump a few paintings onto your DPW Gallery, forget about them, and then expect the sales to come pouring in. DPW is like a plant–you have to keep watering it with new works in order for it to bloom for you! Ideally, you should produce at least a few paintings a month (perhaps a few a week, or even daily) and keep your art on the front page of DPW. (A painting of yours is seen on the front page along with the rest of the day’s newest offerings, people then click on your gallery, and you’re now getting “discovered”!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone for months without posting new art, and sometimes I’ll still sell now and then. But my best months for sales are months when I post new art.

What styles, sizes, mediums and subject matters sell best?

A glance at the art on the front page of DPW should give you a clue. In my opinion, a popular style of work is representational (both more detailed work and impressionistic styles are common). Oils and acrylics are tried-and-true popular mediums, though pastels and watercolors can do well too. A lot of artists work in 6×6″, but basically anything under 8×10″ is common (though larger sizes are often seen as well).

Popular subject matters include animals, still lifes and landscapes. I sell mostly animals (cats, but I intend to do other animals too) and portraits. Portraits can sell well depending on the type of portrait. If it’s a portrait of your Aunt Effie, or a model from class looking bored, maybe not. If it’s more unique, perhaps so. I hesitate to give too many suggestions about portraits because what works for me might not work for you. I’ll show you a sampling of portraits that I’ve sold fairly quickly on DPW to give you an idea of what has worked for me, and leave it at that.

About the three oil paintings above: Left: “Exotic Simplicity.” 8×8″ thanks to Cathleen Tarawhiti of DeviantArt for the photo used as a reference. Center: “Stare,” 8×8″ thanks to djwar93 of DeviantArt for photo reference. Right: “Ray Bans” 6×6″ thanks to lenadementieva of deviantart (deactivated account) for photo reference. (Yes, it’s okay to use other photographers’ reference pictures for art on DPW, in fact, they often suggest places like Morguefile.com to find royalty-free photos. Just make sure you have permission to use the photo, don’t violate copyright, and you’re fine!)

A lot of artists do well focusing on painting mainly dogs, or seascapes, or mountain scenes, or a variety of other subjects. Landscapes are good, but there are a lot of other artists selling landscapes. Still lifes are good, but there are a lot of other artists selling still lifes. But, I wouldn’t ever discourage someone who specializes in still lifes or landscapes from sticking to them. Go with what you love. Most collectors could always squeeze another landscape or still life somewhere on their wall! (Or, any painting of their favorite subjects!)

I cannot predict which artists will sell better. But I’ll add this observation: If you love your subject, if you have some measure of skill (decent drawing ability, sense of color and composition, are comfortable with your painting technique), then I’d consider it unusual that you’d sell nothing. With that said, I’ve seen some wonderful artists who don’t sell as much as I’d expect, and I am at a loss as to explain why. But, many artists who hit all the right spots (prices “fit in” with DPW, good technique) will at least get some results. Whether the ratio of selling will satisfy them, I cannot say. But sell something on a regular basis? The odds are good. And you don’t have to be a top artist either, I mean, look at me! LOL! I am not the worst, not the best. Meh. And I sell. So, give it a shot!

I suspect that I sell what I do because I mostly stick to beloved subjects: portraits and cats (and other animals). People know me on DPW as the artist who paints cats and faces. (Mostly cats!) I think there’s some wisdom to that strategy.

Don’t be ashamed to pick a few subject themes and stick with them for a while. And don’t just be thinking of “What will sell?” Think about what you LOVE to paint, and see if what you love is also something that other people could love too. I paint cats because I love them, they are a popular subject, and also I come from a family of cat lovers. If a cat painting never sells, it’ll end up as someone’s Christmas gift. I paint portraits because I love painting portraits and I could always use the practice. If I were to try to chase every trend and only choose certain subjects because I thought they might sell (but I felt no particular love or passion for them) then I’m probably not going to sell as well, and will likely end up stuck with a lot of unsold paintings with subjects that I don’t care about. Forget that!

The elephant in the room: PRICES.

What prices sell best? You’ll get a good idea from looking at the artwork on DPW. The prices vary there, but few are what you’d call “high,” or even “middle of the road.” But, it always depends. As a rule of thumb, if you’re starting to sell online, have no existing following, then under $100 is probably better.

This will not work for everyone. In my case, I was (and still am) a “nobody,” so I had nothing to lose by keeping my prices sorta in line with a lot of the other art there. I have been a big fangirl of John Larriva and several years ago he was selling 6×6″ portraits on Etsy for something like $50. Not only did I absolutely adore his work, but those were prices even I could afford! His prices have gradually migrated up over the years (but they’re still by no means “high”) and he sells almost everything he does. (As I type this, of 300+ paintings he’s posted on DPW, only 9 remain unsold! Holy cow!) I figure, if John Larriva—who is incredibly skilled—chose to sell for those prices, then there is no shame in it and I felt comfortable doing the same. It’s been working for me so far. Like Larriva, my prices have migrated up over the years, but they certainly are far from being “high.”

Not every artist will want to do this, and I don’t expect them to. It’s not always going to be necessary. Some artists will be happier selling an occasional piece for $300 or $500 (which many would argue is still not that high) rather than selling six pieces more quickly and getting a total of $300 to $500 for all of them combined. And obviously, if an artist is commanding higher prices AND is selling frequently, then there is no earthly reason for them to lower prices. The lower prices are only something to consider if you’re unknown and aren’t having much luck selling yet.

I think part of the reason that I don’t mind selling at these prices (and I suspect it’s the same for Larriva—though I can’t speak for him) is that I work relatively fast. If each painting took twenty hours to complete, there’s no way I could part with it for $60 or whatever!

That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to always sell for such low prices. I don’t mind it because it’s like a foot in the door, I’ve gained some collectors, and it’s ONLY the smaller, quicker-to-finish works. My larger pieces are available on another online gallery and command much higher prices (in proportion to their size). They are still not “high” at this point, but definitely not in the same “low” category as my prices on DPW!

Some artists say they separate their DPW works from their other more serious “gallery” works by classifying the DPW paintings as “studies.” (And, by virtue of their small size, simpler compositions, and the much shorter completion time, many DPW paintings will fit the definition of “study.”) As such, they can sell for cheaper, while larger, more ambitious gallery works are priced higher and there’s no overlap. I think that’s a nice compromise and that’s the direction I’m aiming for too.

Is there are a “busy season” on DPW? Are some days of the week better for selling than other days?

I’m adding this because it was a burning question in my heart when I started with DPW. I sold really well one month, then bupkiss the next month. Was I doing something wrong? What could I expect for the future? Eventually, I noticed some patterns. (But please remember, what works for me might not work for you.)

Winter season (working up to Christmas) should be very good. But surprisingly, after Christmas works for me too. I have had some very good selling months in January through April. After April I sometimes have a “cliff” where things really slow down. The summer months can be “meh” as well, but it really depends.

My personal experiences are not comprehensive because I’ve had lapses where I’ll go months, here and there, not posting new art. But I’ve had enough experiences with the Summer months being less than exciting, and the Spring being unexpectedly better, so those are the trends for me.

As for days of the week, I think that weekends are better? But I’m still not completely certain about this. I still post new art on any day of the week. If it’s done and ready to be posted, I post it!

Well, that’s all I have to say about DPW for now, but I may update this post as other things develop.

If you have experience selling on DPW, PLEASE leave comments below! I am sure that my opinions are not going to be shared by everyone, and I’d love to hear from other DPW artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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