My Experiences With The Basic Business Of Art

In the beginning, (1968 after art school) I painted original work for exhibit. If a client liked a painting that was sold, I could paint another one just for them. Often I would be consigned to paint a special painting to the clients’ specifications. Galleries would buy the art at wholesale prices and sell at their markup leaving the artist to produce more works. All was a win, win, for the artist, gallery, and collector.

In 1995 there was a sudden boom of the print market. First there was the open offset lithography edition print on heavy poster paper which meant there could be a billion of the same image printed and sold. Then there was the limited edition offset lithography print and there could be from 250,000 prints to 1,000. Then there was the artist proof (which made no sense being from an offset lithography mass printer) and limited to 100 – 50 proofs. Then there is the remark which includes the artist personal doodle or hand enhancement on the same mass printed offset lithography print, usually in a low number to 50. Now remember each advance is at a higher cost but the same piece of paper that is mass produced from the offset lithography printer.

Then came the Gicleé, printed from a wide format ink jet printer often as wide as 42” or more and as long as needed. These were originally made for the poster and advertising market but found out it worked well for the visual art market as well and could be printed on archival watercolor paper with improved longer lasting inks. In fact they looked so good that some artists who painted in watercolor could not tell the original from the print and sold the prints as originals at original prices until the marked put a stop to that as deceptive. Most artists made good money selling prints but the sales for originals declined.

Now you have that wonderful piece of paper with art on it and it must be framed to preserve it and hang on your wall. Most art lovers discovered that the frame cost more than the print when they went to get it framed and many prints are still under the bed or in a closet! Not only that, sad to say, it’s only really worth the paper it’s printed on. The only real worthwhile prints are the hand pulled Litho’s, wood block or linoleum prints made by the artist in small editions.

Now in 2015, most art collectors of a younger generation desire to own original works from reputable galleries, museums and artists whose work they admire. Even if it’s placed on a layaway plan, originals are worth it and are still truly collectable. Remember that old saying that Grandma used to say…”What goes around comes around.” Now, if only galleries would buy the work they want to sell wholesale from artists, then we artists would have better support.

More on this subject at a later date.


Marcella is a visual artist that made a leap of faith in 1995 and took an early retirement from a successful elementary teaching career of 27 years. She and her husband moved from California to the Atlanta area to continue as a full time artist. She has a formal education in the arts, and has been a creative visual artist for over 40 years.

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