Today's post is by Lori Woodward, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She has been a member of the Putney Painters since 2004, a small invitational group of painters who are mentored by Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I spoke at the annual Oil Painters of America show and conference in June '12. I began the talk by asking how many listeners had applied the law of supply and demand to their art marketing plans. Only 3 people raised their hands, and know what? All three were magazine sales and ad directors.
The Law of Supply and Demand is a time-tested precept for marketing and sales for just about everything that consumers buy and acquire, and yet, this "law" is ignored by the majority of artists and galleries. I believe that it's an important concept to apply to your art sales and marketing efforts, whether you sell someone else's artwork or your own.
Before I get started with further explanation, I'd like to say to those who sell by painting small unframed paintings on a daily or weekly basis - it's OK to do this. The very fact that your supply is ample - for the most part means you will sell for lower prices. One of the precepts of the law of S&D is that the higher the supply, the lower the price. If you're a prolific painter, and you have dozens of pieces for sale at one time, it's difficult to get really big bucks for those artworks. Why? Because there is not incentive to pay a lot when there are many ways and places to get those works.
In the next post (probably next week), I'll discuss ways to keep your supply low and increase demand while continuing to paint as much as you like. Hint: this means taking care to introduce your work a couple at a time and then work at selling those. When they sell, introduce more of your work. I don't advise putting all of your available work on your website. Yeah, I know... you're thinking that you might find a buyer if you post them all - and you might, but serious collectors are going to think that you offer nothing special or unique.
How Does the Law of Supply and Demand work for artists?
Last week, I bought a small watercolor, done by a deceased artist, William Paskell (1866-1951). Framed, it was only $165.00. He is highly collected, but even though he's been dead for quite awhile, his work remains "easy to acquire" because he was such a prolific painter. He had a large family and even painted under a few other names so that he could produce and sell more work. His bio states that having so much work on the market all the time kept his prices low for the remainder of his life. He was a great artist! His contemporary artist friends were less prolific and painted large pieces for annual salons - while selling their smaller studies to the industrialists and wealthy clients who bought the large paintings.
Again, I'm not saying that painting and selling a plethora of works is a bad thing. What I am suggesting is that top collectors will not take interest in your work (no matter how good it is) if there is too much available "all the time".
For the point of this post, I'm going to assume that your work is truly amazing and professional. Having said that, let's say you've developed an individual style that collectors can recognize from across the room. You've got a body of work to begin to sell in the current year... ready to go! Let's say you've got about 20 works, various sizes and you've got your pricing worked out (usually by the size of the painting).
If you've got 50 unsold paintings, I'd avoid putting them all on your website at one time. Post only your best, since viewers will judge the entire body of your work by your least successful piece. Try not to feel desperate by posting everything while thinking... but someone might love and buy it. Stop gambling, know which of your works are truly remarkable, and put those out there first. Even the most famous and highly collected artists don't show everything they do. Some burn their less than favorable works so no one buys them for big bucks after they die.
The artists whom I've interviewed who are doing very well in a good and bad economy have two lines of work: They have high-end, larger paintings that are their best - to sell to the serious/wealthy collector, and they also have a second "line" of works that are quicker to paint, easy to sell and lower priced. While these artists do sell their larger works, they are more likely to make a living with their smaller works during hard times.
So you're wondering... doesn't this fact dilute your whole point Lori? Yeah, kinda - but let me reiterate that having many many paintings available for sale at once drives price down. That's not necessarily a bad thing because you can make a decent living by the sale of inexpensive artwork.
But what if you are a slower painter, and there's no way you can do the "daily painting" route? Then in a way, you're still in good shape because you are not going to saturate your market - your larger paintings can command a higher price, because the supply is low and they are not easy to get. If you're a slow, meticulous painter, your second line is most likely going to sell in the form of reproductions. I'm aware of painters who do sell their (10 or so) large works for $25,000 to $30,000 and they offer a series of limited edition prints (usually giclees) for $250-$500 unframed. Yeah, the prints are still expensive, but many more folks who love that artist's work can acquire the image of it.
The key to controlling supply and raising demand is to give people an incentive to buy soon... not wait... ! When art collectors think they have plenty of time and places to buy your work, they will not take action. That's why putting your work out, little by little, with an incentive to act soon is key to building a following for your work.
People are not inclined to take action unless they are convinced that they might lose out. So to raise demand of your work, you'll need to think of ways to create some aspect of urgency. There are many levels in which to do this, and many ways to create incentive. Artists who are utilizing the law of supply and demand are reaping income rewards. In a future post, I'll delve into ways artists at various price levels can raise the demand for their works... if I'm a good girl, that'll be next week!
Take care to make your work special. While you're increasing your expertise as an artist, work at increasing the demand - especially with a more affluent group of collectors. This will take time - getting rich quick doesn't work in art careers, but it can happen over time with knowledge and strategy.
Loriwords (AKA Lori Woodard)
Editor's Note: You can view Lori's original post here.