This article is by Lori Woodward, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is a member of the the Putney Painters, an internationally known group of a dozen artists who paint under the mentorship of Richard Schmid. Lori authored and illustrated step-by-step articles for Watercolor Magazine from 2007 to 2012. She has taught art marketing seminars at Scottsdale Artist School and at the 2012 Oil Painters of America national convention and show.
Before I move on to talk about the specifics of having prints made, pricing and details about selling them, it's important that you, the artist, determine whether or not investing in prints is a good idea. In today's blog, I'll post some questions for you to ponder so you can make informed decisions when it comes to having prints made.
Does Your Work Have a Strong Following?
When I participated in a string of outdoor summer shows in New England, there were a few artists who made the majority of their income through selling prints. This fact piqued my curiosity, so I asked those artists how they knew they were ready to sell prints. Most, if not all, said that an artist is ready to sell prints when they can't keep up with sales of their originals. In other words, when the artist can't produce enough original work to keep up with the demand, that's the time to consider selling prints.
Today, the reasons for having editions of prints are different. Most artists who have giclees made, sell them because the price of their original work has risen enough over the years that many who love their work can't afford it. Those same folks would buy a print - if just to have it in their home.
Some Questions To Ponder
Do You Sell Your Originals For Prices That Are Higher Than Most Can Afford?
If you've been selling through galleries successfully and other venues for a number of years, and thereby, the price range for your originals is in the thousands of dollars' range, why not offer giclee prints for sale so that a larger audience who already loves your work (but cannot afford it), can enjoy it in their homes and businesses?
My work is not all that expensive, but recently, I've decided to hang onto my originals and sell giclee prints from my website. Because I'm no longer working with galleries, I don't have to provide originals to the market. So this is one case where the price of originals does not far exceed the price of the prints... because I'm not planning on selling the original.
Will Your Work Appeal To a Wider Audience?
If you look at artists who make a great deal of income from reproductions, you'll most likely see that their work appeals to a wide audience. Their print buyers may or may not buy the same type of work that collectors of originals do. What I'm seeing in my research is that the majority of folks who buy giclee prints like art that is up-lifting in some way. Many times, the artwork serves as a conversation piece when their guests visit, and yes, often times the print is purchased for it's decorative qualities, but this is a bonus when artists sell prints to interior designer firms.
Are You OK with Testing Your Print Market?
When I decided to run two images of giclee prints, one completely sold out while the other hardly sold at all. The print that did not sell... a floral still life in a vertical format. By the way, I had no trouble selling the original. The other print, a watercolor painting of a New England colonial house in dappled sunlight, was a real hit, and I sold the entire edition. My dentist bought the original.
Every print run is often an experiment in marketing. It's difficult to understand why one print sells well while another does not. There are no guarantees, so be prepared to accept the fact that you may not sell every print successfully. Carefully consider exactly who will buy your print and why they would want it before having the prints made.
Not Selling Your Originals? Avoid Moving To Prints
If you're not selling your original work, I wouldn't advise moving to selling giclees. Many times artists think, "Well, since I can't seem to sell my originals, perhaps I'll sell more if I offer prints". Sorry to say, it hardly ever works that way. The time to consider selling prints is when your work has been vetted by galleries and/or previous sales of originals.
In order to be successful at selling giclees, you must know who your potential buyers are and make a solid plan of how to reach and sell to them. If your work is not regionally or nationally known, it will likely be a difficult road to immediately procure a buying audience. Yes, it can be done, but it'll take time, and often some bit of advertising with social media will be needed to to build that audience.
If your originals aren't selling well, or have never sold well, I'd advise working on first growing an audience for your original work. Reproductions will not create a new market for original art that is not selling well in the present or the past. Growing your audience is worth an entire blog series in itself.
The Real Reason To Sell Giclees
The reason to sell giclees is to offer your work to a larger audience at a lower price than your originals. A second incentive is because it provides some semi-passive income to the artist.
Sold Prints Lead To Sales of Originals
Prints can also be marketed to businesses: Hotels, restaurant chains, medical facilities, and corporations. Many times, after a collector sees a print in a business, that person seeks out the artist to buy an original. It's unlikely this person would have ever seen this artist's work if it had not been displayed at their workplace. Recently, Peter Batchelder had procured a series of commissioned works after having his giclee prints installed in a Connecticut hospital.
In the next post, I'll show how a few artists price their giclees. Print prices often depend on how much the artist's original work sells for. It's not a one-fits-all formula. Of course, getting the prints made can be expensive, so at the very least, the artist will want to calculate costs in order to make a decent profit.
But for now, if you'd like to see one artist who sells well in both formats, you can visit:
Richard Hall's Website - Click HERE
Peter Batchelder - Click HERE
Don't hesitate to post questions in the comments. I'll answer them if I indeed know that answer or perhaps help you do a little research on your own.
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