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Why are people selling their art so cheaply?

(Tl Shaver) #41

Hi David…this is not directed at you but you were the last one on the thread and I really like that you have opinions…which can be hard to find nowadays…I think the whole problem with this question is the artists are not treating their art as a business. In a word that’s gonna make a few folks mad here “LAZY”. Everyone expects that their gonna paint some quick paintings, put em online, and the world will come to you begging for it. That’s not how it works. You have to spend as much or more time selling your work as you do creating it. Take it to galleries, enter competitions, take it to anywhere that may be willing to show it, build a client base, and even post it everywhere you can to sell on the net. That’s where the problem with selling low comes in. You really can’t expect some of these places to take your art seriously if your selling it for $30 in an online auction. Respect what you do artists and demand an appropriate sum for it…on every site, gallery, ect. But sadly we all can’t make a living as an artist, and I know that I’m no great artist and I’m not making a living doing it, but by doing the footwork and grunt work required, I sell my work every month and it is a nice little piece of extra cash. Someday, who knows, I might be able to live completely from my art, but I will get there by working hard and building a base of people who want to see it. I too am not attached to each work, but I have never sold anything at rock bottom price either. If you want my art, show me the respect that your willing to actually put a little money into it…that’s what I think.

(David Kuhn) #42

You hit the nail on the head.

With auctions, yes, sometimes you have to give one up for a tiny sum. But other times you get more than you would’ve ever thought to ask for, so it averages out. That’s the point that people keep missing in this thread. They’re focusing on the auctions that end low, and ignoring the ones that end high.

My question is, why do they do that?

(Andrea Jeris) #43

Probably because if you check the Active Bidding page daily there is more art ending up selling for a low bid than high. Overall this looks like a site to buy art at low prices.

(David Kuhn) #44

Because that’s what it is: smaller works at lower prices, that was the idea. Even if something sells for $100-$200, that’s comparatively cheap in regard to the rest of the art world.

Over at the Painter’s Keys, some years before his passing, Robert Genn ended up in a small exchange with Carol Marine in the comments section about this idea of selling paintings starting at $100, and he made the same arguments against it that many of the people in this thread have made.

She defended the position of selling more for less, the position David Marine outlined in that DPW Help article that I linked to way up at the top.

If a person doesn’t like that model, then why do they sell here? It baffles me.

(Andrea Jeris) #45

$100 - $200 for small works would be great, it’s the ones going for $5 - $15 that is sad.

(Paulette Farrell) #46

Thank you Andrea. I have had this $100 for a painting flung at me before as if that is the low price we are talking about. If I got $100 for each of my drawings I would be happy too.

(David Kuhn) #47

It’s not sad if they serve as introduction pieces, something to get into the hands of a possible future regular collector.

I wonder if this kind of criticism is reseved for painters, or does it also apply to musicians who play clubs for free when they’re starting out? Does it apply to actors who take bit parts, or roles in off-off-waaay off Broadway plays when they’re still in the “emerging” stage? Do we tell them they obviously don’t respect themselves, and should accept no gig less than opening for the Stones or co-starring with DeNiro?

No, we don’t apply this criticism elsewhere, so why do we do it here?

(Paulette Farrell) #48

Do those musicians, actors have to pay to perform?

(David Kuhn) #49

Musicians often have to, yes. Actors, no, but they get s*** on by the industry until there’s a demand for their work, going years being thankful for a two line part here and there.

As painters, where does all the entitlement come from? I can’t figure it out.

(Paulette Farrell) #50

David. You still haven’t answered the discrepancy between the $100 idea of a low price and the really low price that paintings are going for. I wouldn’t expect a plumber to come to my house, work for 2 hours and then pay him $1. These aren’t poor artworks going for ridiculous prices they are lovely pieces. I think your notion of working for nothing just to get recognised is hopelessly romantic and out of touch. We pay a subscription for this site. If it worked on a percentage commission instead I bet they wouldn’t be encouraging such low prices.

(David Kuhn) #51

Look in the yellow pages and you see a dozen plumbers. Look online and find tens of thousands of artists hawking their wares. It’s supply and demand, as stated earlier. A lot of artists are out of touch with that reality.

There’s a line that gets repeated every now and then, attributed to different artists, but that I believe began with Joshua Reynolds, where a client thought he was overcharging for a few hours work on a portrait. Indignantly he replied that the client wasn’t paying for a few hours of work, rather, he was paying for 30 yrs of experience and learning and hard work. That’s cute, but misguided. Because no matter how much we value our own work, the actual price will be dictated by market demand, or lack thereof.

We have to be okay with realizing that no matter how much time and effort we put into baking that cake, sometimes no one’s in the mood for cake. Or it just plain tastes like s***.

(Nan Johnson) #52

David, just checked your auctions. The painting that is at $34 (which is very nice by the way) has 12 bids on it, many of them are auto bids which means the same buyer has a higher bid on the painting. This tells me that the other $1 auctions you have are probably by buyers that have higher bids on them also. Doesn’t seem to have to do with who is in the mood for cake, but seems more to be who is looking for the bargain.

I think auctions, in general, spark the bargain hunter - the buyer who is looking for something nice but only if they can get it at a bargain (low) price. I actually overheard one buyer brag about the tidy profit he made when he resold something he had bought at a steal.

Maybe do yourself a favor David & raise your starting bid to, say, $10 - at least cover part of your materials. At $1 only, you tend to invite the bargain hunters, not necessarily the art buyers. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth, no disrespect intended.

(David Kuhn) #53


I’ve had plenty of auctions that I started at a dollar go up to 50, 80, 100, a couple past 200 dollars, so I’m happy with everything the way it is now. It’s all been averaging out nicely for me, and DPW is a great place to sell in my opinion. It’s the other people on this thread who are obsessed with price and mercilessly complaining about it.

As to bargain hunters, all I can say is that my experience here has put me in touch with people who have become regular buyers, some of them shelling out considerable sums when they see a piece they really like and the bidding gets going. The people I’m encountering don’t fit into that mythical bargain hunter mold, but maybe someone else’s experience has been different, I’ll give you that.

Regarding the idea of someone using a minimum bid of say 10 bucks, as per your example, what makes you think that will guarantee a buyer and the ten bucks? It may very well be that no one thinks it’s worth even that, and it still goes unsold, right? That’s where the sheer craziness of some of these arguments comes in: Everyone just raise your prices to $100 minimum, and the buyers will come out of the woodwork, falling over themselves in a race to reward us for “respecting” ourselves and our art like all the 'experts" who write for art blogs tell us they will. Hell, that’s magical thinking if ever there was such a thing, and it completely ignores the hard facts of economics 101: When you present a product that people like, they’ll throw money at you. Present them with something they deem so-so, and you won’t be able to give it away.

As artists we have to be real with ourselves and admit that sometimes we produce crap. And sometimes we produce something that may be great, but not to this audience. And sometimes we get lucky and present the right piece at the right time to the right audience and they then give us money and we feel good. That’s why it’s important to put something out there every day, as a way of increasing your chances of winning.

I just wish people would get that.

(Nan Johnson) #54

I understand David. And for what it’s worth, I’d pay $10 for your work! :slight_smile:

(Patricia Ann Rizzo) #55

I’m another one who paints small an my paintings usually start at $15.00. I’m 75, retired and use my painting money for supplies and to add to my present income. Nothing wrong with it. I generally paint a 5 x 7 in about an hour while watching tv or listening to the radio. Of course, I have several larger paintings on stretched canvas and their prices are much higher but still reasonable. I have no goal at my age except to enjoy my retirement and certainly will not be the next great “find”. I’m happy with my painting and with the money coming in from them.

(Gary Westlake) #56

I like the idea of a totally free market where the artist sets the price and conditions of the sale. When I am in the studio, I just paint for myself, trying to improve my skills and explore various images, but when it comes to selling on line, I get a lot of feedback from seeing what sells (often this is very surprising to me) and from the number of views. I set a price that I can live with for my small paintings but offer them at less than that for a short auction in order to encourage people to have a look at my work. I never set the price at auction at a level that I would feel bad or lose money if it actually sold for the reserve price.

(Dave Casey) #57

A plumber doesn’t work on your plumbing as an auction either. If you don’t like the low bids on your art, then either set a higher starting price or go with a fixed price. Problem solved.

(Vicky Christensen) #58

Comparing plumbers to art doesn’t make sense. It’s the difference between needing something and wanting something. If my toilet isn’t flushing I need someone to fix it. I can look around for a plumber who works cheaply but ultimately I’m under pressure to get the work done. On the other hand a piece of art, regardless of how much pleasure it will give me, is not a necessity.

(Trisha Adams) #59

People sell art here cheaply for various reasons. But the bottom line is they will not make enough money to live on just doing that.

Consider a hypothetical artist.
He paints a small painting every single day, producing 365 paintings per year.
He sells them on DPW for $50 each.
He sells 2/3rd of what he produces, i.e., 243 paintings per year.
He will have a gross income of $12,150.

You can tinker around with the assumptions.
For example, if the artist paints every day and sells half of the paintings for $100, the gross will be $18,300.

(David Kuhn) #60


Funny you mention that, because I was thinking earlier today about something Connie pointed out (I think it was her, at least), that for the early “daily painters”, these small works were meant to supplement income, not provide the whole of it.

Duane Keiser was already a working artist regularly selling large works through galleries when people he knew mentioned they would love a painting, but couldn’t afford gallery prices. So he started doing small ones for 100 bucks in addition to what he was already doing.

From an interview I heard with Karin Jurick, she was hoping to maybe make some extra cash after the '08 economic downturn, so she could keep her frame store up and running without laying off anyone.

Carol Marine was away from painting for many years after some early disappointing experiences with the art world and got back in the game kind of on a whim, throwing the paintings up on eBay with no expectations as to what might happen.

Others use the whole thing as a way get some exposure and get their name out there.

Point being, none of the above were looking to make small daily paintings their only means of support. A good thing, too, since, as you pointed out, you have to tinker with the numbers in a highly optimistic way before you get to a point where it could be viable.

Just the long way of saying I agree with you :slightly_smiling_face: